A retired stage actress, Colleen holds degrees in English and Women’s Studies from The College of Wooster in Ohio. Though she’s an unashamed girly-girl, her in-depth studies of gender identity enable her to create uniquely masculine voices. A South Jersey native, Colleen likes art, shoes, vintage lingerie, and subject/verb agreement. Neiman Marcus is her heaven, but Philadelphia is her home.


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Sleepy Valentina’s EBS Beta Spotlight Interview

EBS: Hi there! How are you tonight?

Sleepyvalentina: Great, how are you?

EBS: Peachy. I wish it was Friday. How about you and I grab a glass of wine? What do you prefer?

Sleepyvalentina: In this muggy weather, pinot grigio.

EBS: See, I’m a zin girl. I like my wine rich and heavy. Anyway, cheers and let’s begin. Please tell us, how did you become a beta?

Sleepyvalentina: Originally, I responded to a request on a Twilighted thread. My son has severe asthma and allergies, as well as an immune deficiency. We spend pollen season more-or-less housebound. Since my husband travels for business quite a bit, I was looking for a hobby I could do once the babies were in bed. After beta’ing for a few months, I wanted to try crafting my own story. Two years ago today, I began writing Art After 5.

EBS: We need another glass to celebrate that! Happy anniversary to a great story! And babies grew quite a bit, too, I’m sure. Allergies suck, I’m sorry. Hopefully your son outgrows them.

Sleepyvalentina: I hope so, too. Then we’d only have the immune deficiency, and on its own, that’s manageable enough.

EBS: So, Twilighted… Why did you decide to join EBS?

Sleepyvalentina: I saw a tweet about the service and followed the link. As soon as I read what you were offering, I wanted to be a part of it. I loved the concept—not just that writers are given answers, but they’re also told why.

EBS: Yes! We’re really proud of this principle, it seems to be very valued by writers. I do have to say that I was surprised when I realized that you wanted to join our team. I had this preconception in my mind that you’re super-busy and frankly too famous to work with such a small service. It’s been a real pleasure to find that we have so much in common. In general, I am blown away by how caring our betas are. Needless to say, I’m really happy you’re our team-mate too.

Sleepyvalentina: (laughs) In other words, you thought I was full of myself.

EBS: Lol. I wouldn’t go that far. But, in a way, yeah, I was asking myself, “Really?” There is this gif from the Love Actually movie. Have you watched that movie? When the girl was asked for a date and she turns around the corner and squeals? That was me, yep. Not going to lie.

Sleepyvalentina: I love that movie; it’s one of my husband’s favorites.

EBS: Okay. Stop right there. It’s my husband’s favorite too! Don’t you think it’s totally a chick flick?

Sleepyvalentina: Before he saw it, my husband totally thought it was a chick flick. I think I had to bribe him with…you know…stuff I don’t normally do. It was the only way I could get him to watch it with me.

EBS: Now you’re full of yourself. Because I know for a fact that there is very little you wouldn’t do when it comes to… you know… stuff.

Sleepyvalentina: I am not full of myself! I am, however, frequently full of…you know.

EBS: Okay, before we got too excited here, let’s get back to serious… stuff. Like beta services. Do you ever read a chapter and think, “I can’t believe how awesome this is!” or “I wish I thought of it myself?”

Sleepyvalentina: Oh, all the time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on. So many great books fail to hold my interest. A lot of fic is the same. But then I come across one that grips me from the opening lines, and transports into the world that author has created. The Diva Diaries by KiyaRaven, Poison in Me by Halawia, and Where the Sidewalk Ends by bronzehairedgirl620 are all recent examples of this. And I remember that unlike Ulysses—which I still can’t manage to finish—the women who wrote these fics aren’t necessarily writers. That continues to blow me away. There are some incredibly talented individuals in this community; I’m humbled to be a part of it.

EBS: Oh, I completely agree. For being a beta, though, do you ever feel the responsibility for what was written by another author who is asking for your help? I am not talking about grammar, but about the plot, the content in general. Do you ever disagree with the direction or a message? How do you deal with that?

Sleepyvalentina: (laughs) Damn, you did your research.

EBS: Yes, I did. This is something I’ve dealt with before myself as well, and probably not with the most grace.

Sleepyvalentina: I frequently disagree with directions stories take. If I happen to be the story’s beta, I give the appropriate feedback to the author. Controversy is subjective; I’ve written fics which some persons found morally repulsive. I’d never expect my betas to defend my decisions as a writer. The first piece I beta’d inspired all this fandom dialog about placing an appropriate warning on a fic if it contained possible triggers for survivors of sexual assault. Though I don’t think influencing the direction of a story is the role of the beta, anticipating how said story will be received by readers is. In that respect, I feel as if I failed the writer in question—as well as certain readers who’d invested months in a story they never would have read had they known where it was going. Talk about trial by fire—I ended up issuing public apologies to all affected parties.

EBS: You mean, you didn’t anticipate it or just didn’t warn the author thinking that it wasn’t your place to do so?

Sleepyvalentina: I didn’t anticipate it. I’m a survivor of sexual assault, but I also have a degree in Women’s Studies. As an undergraduate, I had to read more accounts of rape than I can count. It never occurred to me as an issue because it isn’t a trigger for me. Besides, everyone who knows me (present company included) knows I have no problem saying just about anything to anyone.

EBS: Well, that also comes with experience and a general loss of fear over time. We all at some point say, “Screw it, let them think what they want; I like what’s written.” Besides, some pieces are written for pure shock value. Have you ever dealt with those?

Sleepyvalentina: No. If I felt that a certain story was headed that way, I wouldn’t agree to beta it.

EBS: This is exactly where I was heading with my questions. There was one time a while ago when I completely disagreed with not exactly direction of the particular plot line, but rather with how lightly the author treated a particular topic. You mentioned that you don’t believe in a beta influencing an author, I hear you. I felt kind of helpless and considered asking the author not to include my name as beta in that particular chapter. Thankfully for me, the author ended up softening the subject. I still consider it as a great lesson.

Sleepyvalentina: As far as I’m concerned, crediting me as a beta means I offered feedback. It doesn’t mean the writer in question chose to take it.

EBS: But then, you mention mentoring… Different, no?

Sleepyvalentina: Very different. As a mentor, I would make sure the writer understood potential risks of posting her story as written. If the fandom reacted negatively to similar themes in the past, I’d make sure she was aware of this. If she were to get hate mail and flames, I’d hold her hand through it.

EBS: With all that being said, what is your proudest work as a beta?

Sleepyvalentina: I’m a better writer because of my betas. I remember the first time I got a chapter back from WickedCicada. There were so many notes that the entire document was pale purple. I couldn’t process all of it; it was just too much—and this is coming from an actress by trade who’d heard everything before she could legally drive. I closed the laptop and cried. Then I got over my ego and got back to work.

This is one of the ways writing is like acting—you can create something beautiful, but you have to check your pride at the door. I love that I have the opportunity to give to others the way WickedCicada gave to me. Sure, the story ideas were mine (well, except Fall to Ruin One Day which was written from her prompt). I needed someone who wasn’t afraid to tell me the truth—whether it be, “This is fabulous” or “I know you; you can do better.” She believed in me—even I didn’t believe in myself. That’s huge.

EBS: I agree that the moral support is an invaluable part of being a beta. I know for myself that my insecurities often get the best of me. I run, not just walk, to my girls!

Sleepyvalentina: Mine, too. Even after all this time, posting is as hard for me as taking those first steps into the spotlight. I’m like Martha Plimpton’s character in 200 Cigarettes. Have you seen that movie?

EBS: Is that the one with Christina Ricci and Kate Hudson? I have.

Sleepyvalentina: Yes, that’s it! I’m like the girl who thinks no one will come to her party so she plays a bunch of Elvis Costello records and gets wasted. She passes out before anyone show ups up and misses the entire evening. This is how I how feel when I post new chapters. Every time I upload a new one, I think it’s going to tank. Sometimes, my husband has to hold my hand. I was the same when I was acting. Once when I was relatively new to performing, a director had to physically push my ass out on stage. On the video, you can see me struggle to get my footing before my starting position.

EBS: I posted today. It’s floating… Kind of. I know the feeling. I’m glad you don’t pass out before you post! Lol. So, besides writing awesome stories, do you have a place where you maybe share your thoughts, ideas?

Sleepyvalentina: is my fandom blog. I also have which is more personal. I maintain both for my own enjoyment; I don’t expect anyone to read either of them.

EBS: I know about the former, and will have to check the latter. Thank you. How about your favorites? Books, movies, music…

Sleepyvalentina: Too much to list. I adore every movie Whit Stilman has ever made, but Metropolitan is my favorite. In my dreams, I write dialogue as well as he does. I also love classic films like Roman Holiday and To Catch a Thief. I listen to all kinds of music, but I have a special fondness for Stephen Sondheim and Toad the Wet Sprocket. My stupid people trick is that if I hear a song once, the lyrics will be forever etched in my mind. Books I love include L’Amant by Marguerite Duras, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, and Shopgirl by Steve Martin. When I want something fun, I reach for the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty and anything by Jennifer Weiner.

EBS: What makes you tick? In a good way.

Sleepyvalentina: Love and laughter. Art, music, and wine. Shoes are a nice, too.

EBS: At some point we’d have to have a separate discussion about shoes. I am even willing to create a 50 page PowerPoint presentation detailing the benefits of shoe shopping as a therapy. Shoe shopping, reading great stories and being a part of a great editing team, what can be better?

Sleepyvalentina: Nothing…well, unless sex is involved.

EBS: You’re right, sex trumps them all. It appears that we have a top five to pick from for our next discussion. Until then…Thank you for talking with us tonight!

Sleepyvalentina:Thanks for having me. I had a great time. And thanks for welcoming me into your team. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.

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